What do I mean by socialism?
There was a question on reddit socialism about the political philosophies of the individuals on the site.
I think the Socialist Alternative website with its General Principles in their ‘What we stand for section’ is a pretty good starting point for a discussion of what socialism is.
Socialism = workers’ power
Throughout the world, people are divided into two main classes. There is a tiny number who reap huge profits, through their control of private and public industry. And there is the vast majority who bear the brunt of a system in which profits are more important than human lives.
We stand for production for human need not for profit. Workers create all the wealth in society but have no control over its production or distribution. Capitalism cannot meet the needs of ordinary people because it is based on the continual exploitation of workers by the capitalist class for profit.
So workers should have control over what happens to the wealth created. The working class is the only revolutionary class. Even in less developed countries, where the workers are not as yet a majority of the population, only the working class can lead the struggle for socialism.
We agree with Karl Marx that socialism is about working class self-emancipation. Socialist revolution is not the act of an elite seizing power, but of the mass of working people democratically organising society based on workers’ councils elected in the workplaces.
The society that existed in Russia after Stalin’s rise to power was not socialist. Nor are those in China, Cuba or Vietnam. Such regimes, which are merely a statised version of capitalism, are essentially no different from the West. Just as here, a small minority benefits from the labour of the majority. Whether that minority control is exercised through the state, private corporations, or a combination of the two, makes no difference to the fundamental dynamic of the system.
We support workers’ revolutions to overthrow the remaining Stalinist states in, for example, China, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba. We support the replacement of these bureaucratic regimes, not with other forms of capitalism, but with genuine workers’ governments based on workers’ councils.
Revolution not reform
In countries like Australia, our rulers say they support democracy. Yet most people have only a minimal say in what goes on. We elect a government every three years or so, but in between, we have almost no control over what it does. More importantly, the most significant decisions in society are made by unelected people. The heads of big corporations decide what products are produced, who they will employ and what those jobs will be. Socialists want a new form of democracy. We are for a society in which ordinary people control every aspect of life, a democracy that’s economic as well as political.
There is no parliamentary road to socialism. Bitter experience has shown that mere tinkering with our society will not end oppression or exploitation. The attempts of parties like the ALP and the Greens in Australia to reform capitalism have always ended in disappointment.
The capitalist class controls the state, i.e. the army, the courts, the police and the parliament. The capitalist state resists attempts to reform the system and meets challenges to its power with violence. For workers and the oppressed to liberate themselves, revolution is necessary to overthrow this rotten system and to create a new one.
A successful revolution will involve workers taking control of their workplaces, dismantling existing state institutions (parliaments, courts, the armed forces and police) and replacing them with an entirely new state based on genuinely democratic control by the working class. Such a revolution will not be achieved by a coup or the heroic efforts of a minority. We are not anarchists, who argue against all states – even one democratically controlled by the working class. Nor do we support terrorism, guerillaism, or any variant of so called “revolutionary” politics that conceives social change as coming through the actions of anything other than the conscious self-activity of the mass of workers.
Internationalism and anti-imperialism
Capitalism is an international system of exploitation. Replacing it must also be an international effort. The defeat of the 1917 Russian revolution by the Stalinist bureaucracy shows that socialism cannot be built in a single country; socialist revolutions must be spread if they are to survive. Workers around the world, from Australia, to South Korea, to Iraq, have more in common with each other, than they do with the governments and capitalists of their own countries. We are internationalists, opposed to Australian nationalism.
Australia is not an oppressed country, but an imperialist power in its own right. We oppose imperialism and support struggles for self-determination against imperialism by oppressed nations, national minorities and indigenous peoples all over the world.
We oppose all forms of racism, sexism and homophobia. We recognise Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as the first occupants of Australia and support their struggles for land rights and liberation. We oppose immigration controls.
The fight for freedom from exploitation and freedom from all forms of oppression includes the liberation of lesbians gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, an end to sexism, and reforms to bring about the full equality of women. We support free abortion on demand, the right to full child care, and are against all forms of sexist discrimination.
All these forms of oppression are used to divide the working class. Combating them is an essential part of building a united working class struggle that can create a socialist society. Only a socialist revolution can bring about the genuine liberation of the oppressed.
The revolutionary party
Socialist Alternative stands for building a revolutionary organisation that can participate in mass struggles, draw lessons from past victories and defeats and convince the working class of the way forward to socialism. Such a revolutionary party must be built in opposition to reformist parties like the ALP and organise the most advanced revolutionary workers.
Socialist Alternative is not now that party. We aim to build such a party, democratic, participatory and active, out of the struggles that workers, students and oppressed groups are waging today. History shows that revolutions are inevitable. The question is whether they will succeed, and that depends on the level of political clarity and organisation. This is why building an organisation around clear, revolutionary Marxist politics is so vital today.